Moller Responds on Immigration
By Bryan Caplan
I agree with Caplan that we should have high levels of immigration for both moral and self-interested reasons, and that a great deal of resistance to this traces back to confused zero-sum thinking about trade and jobs, or to xenophobia. The point where we may disagree is this: I don’t think libertarianism (or its core ideas and values) entails open borders. Reasonable people who take seriously individual rights, limited government, and the rest, can favor borders and some restrictions on immigration, depending on the particulars.
Consider Island, a small country off the US coast. Over the years, American tourists enjoy visiting Island. Gradually, their influence becomes more and more pronounced, to the point that Island starts to lose its language (French, perhaps), American missionaries introduce what Islanders view as false gods, etc. I disagree that the people of Island have no recourse for meeting what they will see as an unwelcome threat. I don’t think it’s true that Island must accept a kind of hostile takeover by Americans. I think this is true even intranationally–if the Amish want to stay Amish, they don’t have to accept a mass influx of Brooklyn hipsters, supposing they have legal means of preventing this, and that their reasons are good ones. It would be hard to believe in freedom of association and think they did.
Of course, none of this is to speak to the present-day US, and I agree with a great deal of what Caplan says about the moral imperatives of benefiting and being benefited by immigration. Obviously the US and Island are quite different. But the Island case suggests to me, again, that libertarian values don’t entail open borders.